Skelos Announces Student Athlete Drug Screening Legislation

Dean G. Skelos

April 28, 2005

New York State Senate Deputy Majority Leader Dean G. Skelos (R, Rockville Centre) today announced that the Senate is expected to act in the near future on legislation (S. 494-A) that both requires the State Education Department to promulgate regulations for schools that establish drug testing programs for student-athletes and imposes severe penalties on adults who distribute steroids to minors. Following Congressional inquiries into the role of performance enhancing drugs in professional athletics, recent studies indicating a sharp escalation in the use of anabolic steroids among American teenagers have provided this legislation with additional significance.

"As a parent, I am deeply troubled by recent studies which show a dramatic increase in the use of steroids by teenagers," said Senator Skelos. "While the number of kids using steroids has increased, so too has the perception by school children that using these drugs will not only help them succeed on the athletic field, but also provide them with a shortcut to look like their favorite model or movie star."

Recently, a number of prominent steroid researchers, including Professor of Health and Human Development at Pennsylvania State University Charles Yesalis, announced findings that an unprecedented number of young girls are using steroids as a weight control and body fat reduction method. Mr. Yesalis is a nationally-renowned expert on steroids who provided valuable testimony to a State Senate panel investigating steroid use among children in the mid-1990s.

According to the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s ("CDC") 2003 National Youth Risk Behavior Survey, steroid use among high school students doubled between 1991 and 2003, as more than 6% of the 15,000 survey respondents admitted taking steroid pills or shots at least once. This is up from 2.7% in 1991. In addition, the National Institute on Drug Abuse’s ("NIDA") 2004 Monitoring the Future Survey found that only 56% of the 12th grade students surveyed perceived steroid use as harmful. This is down from a peak of 71% in 1992. At the same time, a 2003 survey of athletic directors conducted by the National Federation of State High School Associations determined that less than 4% of the nation’s high schools test students for steroids.

"Many schools want to establish a drug testing program, but choose not to do so because of legal and constitutional concerns," said Skelos. "Although the Supreme Court deemed testing to be constitutional, little or no guidance has been provided to assist schools with this process. The state has an obligation to set standards and, by creating both a state-sanctioned approach and a level playing-field, this legislation will help encourage more schools to institute screening policies."

Moreover, researchers have determined that teenagers usually obtain illegal anabolic steroids from friends, relatives and over the internet, with some even receiving them from parents or coaches. To discourage those who would sell or distribute these controlled substances to children, the legislation creates the new offense of criminal sale or distribution of an anabolic steroid to a person less than 21 years of age. This crime is a class C felony, punishable by up to 15 years in prison. The bill also requires the State Education Department to further study the issue of steroid use among student-athletes and provide recommendations to the Governor and State Legislature regarding the necessity and desirability of a mandatory drug screening statute.

"This tough new law will send an unmistakable message to those who endanger the health and well-being of our children by supplying them with these life-threatening drugs that their actions will be severely punished," concluded Senator Skelos.